It’s hot, really hot, up here on Mt. Hermon, the northernmost tip of Israel/Palestine that peers into Syria and Lebanon. I’m standing less than a mile from these countries that are sharing refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) at a rate the world doesn’t know how to handle. I look out at the metropolises, thin and gray behind the haze of sand that’s perpetually present here in the Middle East, and try to reconcile the headlines flooding through my mind with the life — honest, authentic, hardworking, loving life — that I see.
In this age of social media, I often feel that the world is closer than ever. The world appears to be at my fingertips, knowledge just a Google search away and new relationships only take an Instagram DM.
But on some days, like when World Refugee Day is right around the corner, I am reminded that the world is so so much bigger than my reach. The comforts of my clean running water, my easy access to medication and feminine hygiene products, and even the fact that I know where I’m waking up tomorrow are all privileges that not all people — far too many people — get to experience.
When it comes to confronting the reality of the refugee life around the world, confusion and fear can abound: What’s really going on? What do they need? Can I do anything? The answers to those questions are just as multilayered as the people we’re talking about, but we’ve got one way you can make a long-term impact, right now:
Kiva, a microlending non-profit, opened the World Refugee Fund to empower refugees around the world by providing microloans — on average, less than $1,000 — for specific needs, from education to business funding to medical needs.
Refugees and IDPs are often viewed as an enemy, a people who bring beliefs and cultures some of us don’t understand and, instinctively, fear. These are people whose home countries are dangerous and oppressive places to be; I sometimes wonder what my own living situation would have to be like to prompt me to flee, understanding I’d likely never return. In fact, fewer than 5% of refugees ever return to their home country, and the average length of exile is 17 years. The second-class citizenship many refugees face makes building prosperous livelihoods extremely difficult; more than 70% of Syrian refugees living in Jordan and Lebanon live below the poverty line.
IDPs and refugees can often be misconceived as “too risky” to lend to by larger, traditional financial institutions because of their lack of credit or collateral, when in fact, Kiva reports that refugees have a repayment rate of 96.6%, which is almost identical to that of the non-refugee repayment rate (96.8%) of loans during the same time period.
Kiva partners with organizations on the ground in countries all around the world (called Field Partners) — groups that know the people and their specific plights of that area well — and allot funds to them that the Field Partners then loan out. Since 2016, Kiva has lent more than 6.6 million dollars to six countries and almost 8,000 individual borrowers. That’s a massive global impact that reaches beyond the immediate needs for clean water and clothing.
So where do you come in? For just $25 — that’s all!! — you can contribute a loan to a specific refugee and the project that will best support their livelihood:
In Lebanon, Nadia’s looking to repair the damage done to her home during a combat situation.
Down in Colombia, Diego Armando’s aquaculture business — beneficial not just for himself, but for his entire community — would flourish with new, healthy fish and facilities.
Ereida Del Socorro, also living in Colombia, needs sewing materials and fabric to expand her clothing-making business that she’s been running for the last forty years.
And remember this is a loan, not a donation — so that money is coming back to you, and 100% (!!!) of your money is going to the refugee and their project that you’ve selected. For just a few dollars — that could be matched 1:1, depending on which project you choose — you can connect with someone across the globe by empowering their work and livelihood.
This post was in partnership with Kiva, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.